THIS WEEK'S TOPIC:
Monday night brings us the first national championship game of the playoff era. Does Urban Meyer win his third title and join the rarefied air of winning a championship at two different schools? Or will Oregon finally get over the hump and win their school's first title?
I think Oregon takes the game, but it will probably end up being closer than it should be. I envision a game where it is within a few points either way at the half and then the Ducks pull away in the second half due to wearing down the Buckeyes with their relentless pace. A team can't prepare for that in a week-and-a-half, especially if they aren't used to seeing it.
I've got a close first half with Oregon pulling away late, with a final score something like 41-23. While Cardale Jones has exceeded all expectations taking over this late in the season, the Ohio State offense can't afford to stall out like it did at several points against Bama - in the first quarter in the red zone, and not moving the ball well for most of the second half (the exception being Ezekiel Elliott's run). Both defenses will struggle to defend against the run, but I think Mariota's experience and accuracy advantage will help Oregon convert more opportunities into touchdowns, forcing Ohio State to throw more than they'd like late in the game and making the final score a wider margin.
I might be in the minority, but I happen to think that this game is not going to be close. Like it or not, Oregon absolutely pantsed a team that won over 20 games in a row, spanning two years. I think it comes down to QB play in this game, and I think that Ohio State lucked into playing Blake Sims whereas Oregon was able to handle the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. I think this game will come down to Mariota vs. Cardale Jones, and I would take Mariota every time. I think this might be the biggest National Championship victory since 2004, even worse than our beatdown in 2012.
This game feels like a handful of forces are pushing against each other. On the one hand you have Urban Meyer going up against Mark Helfrich. Sure, Helfrich is 24-3 in his short career but he's a second-year head coach going up against an all-time great. Then again, it's ridiculously difficult to win titles at two different schools and it would be pretty amazing if Meyer was able to pull that off in just his third season at Ohio State--and in the first ever playoff no less. I've got to think the College Football Gods are going to be working against him on this one, unless Meyer truly is a favored son.
This feels like the right time for Oregon to win their first title. As a program, they've earned it. Seven straight seasons with at least 10 wins. Double-digit wins in 10 out of their last 15 seasons. Then again, guess who has a better winning percentage than Oregon since 2000? The Ohio State University is correct.
Both teams come in playing their best football of the season so that's a wash. Obviously, the Ducks having Mariota is a big advantage. I just don't know if that tilts the scales enough, though. I like Meyer in this big game, I don't like some of those Oregon injuries, and I think the Buckeyes are a tougher team. If Oregon jumps out to a big lead early they can win but I'm expecting a close game where the Buckeyes grind out a victory.
For how dominant Oregon's win over Florida state looked on the scoreboard, Jimbo Fisher's squad committed some unforced errors to tilt the contest in Oregon's favor. I suspect Ohio State will be more careful during the National Championship than FSU was during the semifinal. Since Urban Meyer has been in the national championship before, the Buckeyes will be well-prepared. Their recent performances have also erased memories of an inexplicable loss to Virginia Tech. Ohio State is looking better than I believed they were when they entered the playoff.
However, I think Oregon has been more consistent this season overall. Their loss looks better than OSU's loss. Oregon has even removed itself from that loss by defeating Arizona convincingly in the PAC-12 championship game. I think Marcus Mariota has one more statement in him, saved for the biggest stage as he leads Oregon to their first-ever national championship.
I think Oregon wins this. I don't think OSU has the defense to stop them. That being said, I don't think we should expect the blowout we had in the Rose Bowl. In my opinion that was not FSU's worst game this year. I think that has been their level of performance for most of the year and just that it finally came against a team that had the weapons to make them pay. OSU's offense did not really impress me against Alabama, especially all of those possessions in the shadow of their own endzone that yielded nothing. Frankly I think OSU won that game because, for some inexplicable reason, Alabama stopped pounding the ball. With that said, I think they do enough to make this a game.
I'll take Oregon to win this one somewhat comfortably. Michigan State and Alabama were easily the two best offenses Ohio State has faced this season; they gave up 536 yards and 37 points to the Spartans, and, despite Blake Sims's three interceptions, gave up 407 yards and 35 points to the Tide. Oregon's offense is to those offenses as Guinness is to Sam Adams - Sam is good, but Guinness is at another level - and I'm not really sure Ohio State will be able to stop them consistently. On the flip side, Oregon's defense is much better than they tend to get credit for, and in particular they have a better pass rush than Alabama and should be able to put more pressure on Cardale Jones. Ezekiel Elliott's home run ability is scary, but otherwise I think Oregon can stop Ohio State well enough to pull away in the second half.
Imagine, if you will, a world where the ending to Lost didn't suck, Ewoks were replaced by Wookies in Return of the Jedi, Ned Stark kept his head, David Gordon misses the field goal, Crystal Pepsi was still on the shelves and Firefly would be starting its 13th Season.
Are you in that fantasy world of hope and wonder?
Well that's the reality where Ohio State will beat Oregon.
It doesn't exist and, as Ned Stark reminded us all, Winter Is Coming.
LOL who are we kidding this game will be a bloodening. As good as Ohio State looked against Alabama, It doesn't really matter. Bama didn't run tempo like Oregon does and Oregon doesn't have Lane Kiffin as its Offensive Coordinator.
I can easily see this looking exactly like the FSU game. Oregon will rattle Jones, force turnovers and capitalize.
Oregon wins by 21. Minimum.
I really hope Oregon wins this game. They deserve it. They have been so good the last 7-8 years or so, they just deserve a championship to put the cherry on top of what's been an incredible run. But every time I think about this game, one name pops into my head, and that's Urban Meyer. I just don't see him losing a big game like this. He certainly has lost big games before, and he rarely has ever played a team as good as this Oregon one, but I don't know, he's just such a ridiculously good coach that I cannot pick against him. Ohio State by a touchdown.
Oregon is going to win. I'd be surprised if it was a blowout just because Ohio State has averaged almost 50 a game in Cardale Jones' two starts, both against good teams, but the Ducks are too good. Marcus Mariota doesn't make mistakes basically ever, Oregon can and does pound it on the ground when they need to, and their defense is plenty good enough to enable their offense to score more points than Ohio State, which as John Madden will tell you, is the key to any game.
The game probably stays close until early in the 4th, with Oregon winning something like 48-31.